Restoring “When a Man Has Been a Naughty Baronet”
Restoring “When a Man Has Been a Naughty Baronet” to the Act II Finale of Ruddigore may be the most common revision to a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta.
Ruddigore held the unenviable position of being the operetta that followed immediately after The Mikado. It’s hard to imagine that any operetta would have fared well in the shadow of that extraordinarily successful production. In fact, as is frequently noted, there were “boos” heard in the audience at Ruddigore’s Opening Night.
That negative reception was, however, quite unfair. Ruddigore is a wonderful operetta, with beautiful music and delightfully funny dialogue. The damage, however, was done. Gilbert decided to revise the work substantially, including even altering the operetta’s title, from the offensive Ruddygore, to its current title (Some Victorians thought the word looked a bit too much like “bloody” … a very naughty word indeed!).
Ruddigore continued to be revised in the years that followed. In the 1920s, the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company trimmed the Act II Finale by cutting “When a Man Has Been a Naughty Baronet.” Some librettos still include this cut.
In the 1970s, however, the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company restored the song. Today, most librettos offer both options, making it possible for a company to chose to perform both “When a Man Has Been a Naughty Baronet” followed by “Oh, Happy the Lily” or only the latter song.
The Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company has included this song as a part of the Act II Finale in all of its productions of Ruddigore, including 1983, 1995, 2009 and 2020 and 2022.
When a man has been a naughty baronet,
And expresses deep repentance and regret,
You should help him, if you’re able,
Like the mousie in the fable,
That’s the teaching of my Book of Etiquette.
That’s the teaching in her Book of Etiquette.
Having been a wicked baronet a week
Once again a modest livelihood I seek.
Is to me a keen enjoyment,
For I’m naturally diffident and meek!
If you ask me why I do not pipe my eye,
Like an honest British sailor, I reply,
That with Zorah for my missis,
There’ll be bread and cheese and kisses,
Which is just the sort of ration I enjye!
Which is just the sort of ration you enjye!
Sir Despard and Mad Margaret:
Prompted by a keen desire to evoke
All the blessed calm of matrimony’s yoke,
We shall toddle off tomorrow,
From this scene of sin and sorrow,
For to settle in the town of Basingstoke!
Prompted by a keen desire to evoke, etc.
“When a Man Has Been a Naughty Baronet” was sung in our 2022 production of Ruddigore by Sarah Wind Richens as Rose Maybud, Paul Willis, Jr. as Richard Dauntless, Seth Tychon Steidl as Robin, Joe Allen as Sir Despard and Lara Trujillo as Mad Margaret.
“When a Man Has Been a Naughty Baronet” was sung in our 2020 production of Ruddigore by Sarah Wind Richens as Rose Maybud, Anthony Rohr as Richard Dauntless, Seth Tychon Steidl as Robin, Joe Allen as Sir Despard and Lara Trujillo as Mad Margaret.
“When a Man Has Been a Naughty Baronet” was sung in our 2009 production of Ruddigore by Megan Flod as Rose Maybud, Jim Ahrens as Richard Dauntless, Keith Carl as Robin, Waldyn Benbenek as Sir Despard and Lara Trujillo as Mad Margaret.
In our 1995 production of Ruddigore, “When a Man Has Been a Naughty Baronet” was sung by Mary Gregory as Rose Maybud, Mikal J. Kraklio as Richard Dauntless, Mather Dolph as Robin, Waldyn Benbenek as Sir Despard and Marta Burton as Mad Margaret.
Ruddigore Staged as a 1940s Movie Musical
Ruddigore is traditionally set in the Regency Period, decades before Gilbert and Sullivan’s time. Director Joe Andrews set The Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company’s cancelled 2020 and remounted 2022 productions of Ruddigore decades before our time, as a 1940s film from the golden age of cinema. The production incorporated concepts and dialogue from classic films of the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s, including hard-boiled detective dramas, film noir, screwball comedies, and movie musicals to create a unique and wonderfully successful production. The Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company would encourage other companies to consider this version if they are interested in an alternative to the traditional presentation.
The audience’s experience with the concept began with a pre-show slide show of period advertisements, projected onto the show curtain, which was used as a movie screen. Most of the advertisements were actual ads of the period, modified to include delightful, subtle hints and quotes from Gilbert and Sullivan’s operettas.
Next, the Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company has a long-standing tradition of cast members singing a cell phone song, asking the audience not to use their phones during the performance, which is sung to the tune of a song from the show for which alternative lyrics have been written. For both our cancelled 2020 and remounted 2022 productions of Ruddigore, a trio of 1940s period costumed movie theater ushers sang two slightly different versions of a cell phone song, set to the tune of “My Mind is Fully Open,” the Matter Patter.
The most movie-like feature of the production were the 1940s period inspired opening credits, which were projected onto the show curtain during the overture. At the end of the overture, the curtain rose, and the show began with the conceit that the audience was now watching the film.
Moving Ruddigore from the Regency Period to the late 1940s required naturally appropriate updates to the costumes, set and props. The most significant updates, however, were to the script and to Gilbert’s intentionally antiquated dialogue. For example, Dame Hannah’s line, “Rose, why dost thou harden that little heart of thine? Is there none hereaway whom thou could’st love?” was updated to “Rose, why do you harden your heart? Is there no one in all the village whom you could love?” Another example is Rose’s line, “Oh, but, sir, I knew not that thou didst seek me in wedlock, or in very truth I should not have hearkened unto this man, for behold, he is but a lowly mariner, and very poor withal,” which was updated to “Oh, but sir, I didn’t know that you sought me in wedlock, or truly I should not have listened to this man, for truly, he is a lowly mariner, and very poor.”
The most delightful revision to the script, however, was the inclusion of approximately thirty quotes from movies from the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s, including The Wizard of Oz, Sunset Boulevard, Citizen Kane, Dracula, Gone with the Wind and Singing in the Rain. The audiences were delighted as they recognized one quote after the other.
One of two revisions to the music included Richard Dauntless’ Hornpipe, played by the orchestra and danced on stage as a 1940s swing tune. This update was very well received by the audiences.
Another unique aspect of the production was how it handled the ancestor’s ghosts’ appearance. To give the production another more modern twist and to address the perennial logistic challenges and artistic demands of having the ancestors appear out of painted portraits, the ancestors in this production were portrayed in photographic slides projected onto an onstage screen, built into a bookshelf. As Sir Despard explains in his Act I soliloquy, in an attempt free himself from his ancestor’s ghosts, he’d given his ancestor’s portraits to a museum. Unfortunately, the scheme didn’t work as the museum sent him slides of the ancestor’s portraits and now the ghosts haunt him, and later Robin, from the slide projector screen, which slid open and out of which came the ancestors. With the use of dry ice to create a curtain of fog and red flame lighting, the effect was very impressive.
This concept required that all the ancestors have photos taken of the ancestors’ “portraits” which were viewed from a slide projector onto an onstage screen at the top of Act II. The slides were also shown to the audience on the show curtain during intermission, and included the ancestors’ names, birth and death dates.
The final two changes to this production were not 1940s film related, but were made to take advantage of the vocal and dancing talent of the cast. Both of these revisions would work just as well in a traditional staging of Ruddigore as they did in the company’s 1940s revised staging.
First, “When the Night Wind Howls,” is written as a solo with chorus. Joe Andrews commissioned a friend and colleague, Denise Prosek, to arrange the piece as a trio with chorus. This was the second music revision to the piece. Sir Roderic sang the first verse. He was joined in the second verse by Old Adam, who was kept on stage in this production. In the third verse, the two were joined by another ghost to form a trio. In addition, the chorus part was augmented to include additional vocal lines and repeats of the chorus refrain. The song ended with a strong, vocalized “Ha!” The revised version of the song drew cheers from the audience every night!
Second, Joe Andrews added a dream ballet to “There Grew a Little Flower.” While Dame Hannah and Sir Roderic sang the song as written, a couple entered upstage, portraying Hannah and Roderic in their youth. The couple danced between Dame Hannah and Sir Roderic telling the story of their love and the tragedy of their separation in dance. In the final moment of the ballet, young Hannah gave a flower to Sir Roderic, which he then gave to Dame Hannah at the end of the song. The ballet was a beautiful way to provide the characters of Dame Hannah and Sir Roderic, their relationship, and their loss with a depth that it doesn’t traditionally have.
Sharing Our Revision of Ruddigore and “When the Night Wind Howls”
The Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company is very proud of its successfully produced revised version of Ruddigore and, as a part of its mission to encourage the sharing of the wonderful works of Gilbert and Sullivan with new audiences, would invite other companies to consider staging this version as an alternative to a traditional presentation, and invites other companies to use its rewritten version of Ruddigore.
Ruddigore as revised by The Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company
In addition, The Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company invites other companies to use its rewritten version of “When the Night Wind Howls.”
“When the Night Wind Howls” as revised by Denise Prosek for The Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company
The company’s only request is to be notified that its revised script is going to be used in a production and that there would be an acknowledgement of The Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company in the show program and website. In addition, the company would request that it be notified if “When the Night Wind Howls” is going to be used, and that there would be an acknowledgement of both Denise Prosek and The Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company in the show program and website.